In 1950, Earl Nightingale was inspired by the words “we become what we think about” in Napoleon Hill’s book, Think and Grow Rich, and around the same time he bought an insurance agency. He provided weekly motivational speeches to the agency’s sales staff. In 1956, he recorded a motivational speech to be played while he was on vacation. Nightingale’s employees spread the word of the speech, and demand for the recording grew so large that he and his friend, Lloyd Conant, formed the Nightingale-Conant Corporation to manage sales. Thus was born The Strangest Secret in 1957. It has sold over one million copies, received the first Gold Record for the spoken word, and helped launch the fields of business motivation and audio publishing. It was later adapted into print and video forms.
In The Strangest Secret, Earl defines success as “the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” He argues the ability to incrementally progress towards this goal is a function of what you daily allow to occupy your mind. He compares the human mind to fertile soil. Like soil, your mind does not care what you plant but will return what you plant. If you plant corn, you’ll harvest corn. If you plant nightshade, a toxic perennial herbaceous plant, you’ll get poison. Corn or nightshade? You get to decide.
In my own life’s journey, I believe I’ve uncovered the root cause of a person’s ability to plant corn vs. nightshade, forgiveness. Bitterness, anger, envy, or jealousy are heavy weights to carry around every day. If you allow them to take root in your mind, they feed your Evil Wolf. We must learn to refrain from attacking our opposition or decrying the injustice of their charges against us. Despite the injustice, we need to remain unprovoked and grow in the virtue of forgiveness. It’s easy to misunderstand the purpose of forgiveness. It’s not for the benefit of the perpetrator. It’s for your own benefit.
We are all products of our past, the good and the bad. However, we do not have to be prisoners of our past. We get to decide. Corn or nightshade? This is what Christianity is all about. Through Jesus Christ, you can be born again and start a new life. Jesus makes it possible to plant corn. However, you have to learn how to forgive and move forward. He doesn’t want you constantly dwelling in the past.
With the Holy Spirit as our Helper, He will show us how to move forward. This is also why we need patience. He’ll show us, but on His time, not ours. He will move slower than we want to move. This is a daily tension with which we need to learn to be at peace. He will forgive you of your thoughts of taking revenge and getting even. He will show you how to channel that energy into work that will please Him. This is what it means to “die daily” to self. This is also what empowers us to forgive others. Also, there’s no quota for forgiving others. When Jesus was asked how many times must we forgive our brother and sister, He answered “not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” In other words, He was saying there is no limit on forgiveness.
We don’t want our old thoughts, the poison that controlled our old behavior. We want to die daily to the old us who harbored anger and hatred; the old us who coveted what our neighbor has. We need to move 1% forward every day to be more patient, more forgiving, and more loving people.
The rest of your life is in the future, not in the past. Your past is past. It’s over. You can’t change it, so let it go. Instead, start asking God to do something new in you by helping you master forgiveness. Then you’ll be planting corn the rest of your time on earth.